IFAS’ Bug Week features two new Protect Our Pets videos

Two new videos have been produced this year as part of the “Protect Our Pets” component of Bug Week, which occurs from May 19-23 this year.

Featuring experts with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and the UF College of Veterinary Medicine, the videos are meant to educate the public about dangers that insects and other arthropods can pose to companion animals.

This year’s segments concern mosquito-transmitted diseases. One video features heartworm disease that strikes dogs; the other addresses Eastern equine encephalitis, a viral disease that affects horses and people. The heartworm video is embedded here:

The Eastern equine encephalitis video is embedded here:

The series was inspired by Bug Week organizers, who noted that some of the most serious health threats to pets and livestock involve insects and other arthropod pests, said Dr. Ruth Borger, UF/IFAS assistant vice president for communications.

“We realized that we had an opportunity to help laypeople learn about one facet of veterinary medicine, and potentially improve the quality of life for their animals,” Borger said. “That, coupled with the fact that the University of Florida has a stellar entomology department and veterinary medicine program, made this a great project for BugWeek.”

Videos in the Protect Our Pets series are developed through collaboration between communicators and faculty members with the UF/IFAS Department of Entomology and Nematology and College of Veterinary Medicine, said Sarah Carey, public relations director for the college.

“We’re providing expert advice that you can trust, that’s what Protect Our Pets is all about,” Carey said. “At the same time, we try to make sure the videos are engaging and enjoyable to watch. It seems like we’ve struck the right balance because the response we’ve gotten has been overwhelmingly positive.”

The heartworm video features entomologist Dr. Phil Kaufman explaining how mosquitoes transmit the heartworm pathogen from infected dogs to uninfected ones, spreading the disease. Then, small-animal veterinarian Dr. Amy Stone explains that an easy-to-use medication can protect dogs from the pathogen, a parasitic worm.

In the Eastern equine encephalitis video, entomologist Dr. Jonathan Day discusses the role mosquitoes play in the disease transmission cycle and the virus’ affinity for swampy habitats. Dr. Maureen Long advises horse owners on vaccines against the disease and the need to reduce potential mosquito breeding sites around pastures and stalls.

The new Protect Our Pets videos will remain posted on YouTube indefinitely, alongside two videos produced in 2014 on fleas and ticks.

Organizers are already making plans for next year’s segments, Carey said.

“We have some ideas in mind, and we hope that viewers will tell us what they’d like to see as well,” she said. “Protect Our Pets is a valuable resource and we want to maximize its usefulness to the public.”

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